An introduction to biological systematics
An introduction to biological systematics

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

An introduction to biological systematics

2.13 Systematics and biogeography

Activity 12

Timing: 0 hours 10 minutes

In this clip, Dr. Patterson introduces the concept of systematics and biogeography. He uses a diagram showing two cladograms (Figure 13) – one representing the higher primates that have been discussed in the course, and the other showing where they are found. Area cladograms can be used to answer questions like ‘Where did man originate?’

Figure 13 (a) Cladogram of the higher primates. (b) Area cladogram, with the names of the groups in (a) replaced by the names of the areas where they are found
Download this audio clip.Audio player: Audio clip 13
Skip transcript: Audio clip 13

Transcript: Audio clip 13

Dr. Colin Patterson
Finally, a few words on systematics and biogeography - or how one can use cladograms in biogeography. The next diagram is the cladogram of higher primates that we've been working through, from New World monkeys, the Cebidae, through to ourselves. Next to it, (b) is the same diagram with the names of the groups replaced by the names of the areas where they’re found. This is an area cladogram, based on higher primates. And the idea behind it is that we can use the relationships between organisms to investigate earth history, or the relationships between geographic areas.
This area cladogram suggests various things about geography. For example, that Africa is more closely related to India and Southeast Asia, than to South America.
How might we check or test that idea? The best way would be by using the relationships of other groups - animals or plants, that live in South America, Africa, and the other areas - to see if they give the same area cladogram, or a different one. If all or most of them give the same area cladogram, then we'd have strong evidence for a common history of those groups, and of the areas they inhabit.
One can also use an area cladogram to answer questions like, “Where did man originate?” If you apply outgroup comparison to diagram (b), our two nearest relatives are both African. So the inference would be that we too originated in Africa, and spread from there to the rest of the world.
End transcript: Audio clip 13
Audio clip 13
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371